It’s been almost a 12 months since we acquired behind the wheel of a Euro-spec 2022 Volkswagen Golf R for our First Drive. Now, VW has its U.S.-spec Golf R out, and we determined to seek out out if our finish conclusion of it being “far more enjoyable” nonetheless holds.
There’s one massive distinction (amongst different smaller ones) between this Golf R and the earlier one we drove, and it’s all to do with the transmission. This Golf R is fitted with VW’s six-speed handbook, which is a particular deal with for North America. You see, the Golf R in Europe is solely fitted with VW’s seven-speed DSG automated, however us fortunate people within the U.S. get to decide on our most popular methodology of shifting.
Sadly, deciding on a handbook transmission does end in a barely much less torquey engine. The up to date 2.Zero-liter turbocharged four-cylinder within the Golf R makes 315 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque with the DSG, however VW dials again torque to 280 pound-feet with the handbook. We’re certain your native tuner will fortunately provide the twist again, however wave goodbye to your guarantee when you’re at it.
Regardless of the small penalty in shove, the supply of a handbook continues to be one thing to be pleased about. The transmission itself is completely nice. Shifting the shifter via the gates isn’t some biblical expertise, however there’s sufficient suggestions to maintain us entertained and to chorus from calling it rubbery.
VW swapped the characterful golf ball-shaped knob for a chunky, sq. knob, and it seems like a downgrade. And whereas first impressions with the clutch had us wanting for extra really feel, we warmed as much as it with use. The bundle as a complete is common relating to handbook transmissions in efficiency automobiles, however beggars shouldn’t be choosers: its mere existence continues to be sufficient to make us pleased. On the identical time, we don’t besmirch anyone for selecting the wonderful seven-speed DSG over it.
One merchandise we significantly fell for in our first time behind the wheel of the European Golf R was its optionally available Akrapovič exhaust system. That titanium exhaust isn’t out there for the U.S., however our automotive will get its personal valved exhaust as a substitute. Fortunately, the substitute isn’t a lot of a downgrade versus the Akrapovič system in sound stage and high quality. It blats, pops and crackles with loads of authority. The perforated quad suggestions of the Akrapovič system win on fashion, however relaxation assured that the U.S.-spec exhaust may truly be a bit bassier and guttural. We’d want back-to-back comparisons to make sure, however briefly, it doesn’t seem to be we’re utterly lacking out.
Above left: What you see at night time; Above proper: What you see with inside dome lights on at night time
It’s been completely beat on at this level, however in case you wanted one other reminder, Volkswagen’s new local weather and audio controls are the least user-friendly within the enterprise. Make sure that it’s gentle exterior the primary time you drive a Golf R, as a result of in any other case you’ll have to flip on the dome lights to vary the cabin temperature or modify the quantity. VW makes use of contact capacitive panels on the middle stack proper beneath the infotainment system, however these panels aren’t backlit at night time (drawback depicted above), leaving you utterly clueless as to the place it’s good to stab or slide your finger.
They’re not precisely simple to make use of at excessive midday, both. Even after you understand the place the sliders are, it’s hell to make use of them whereas driving together with your hand bouncing each which approach over poor roads. Plus, unintentional touches of the quantity or temperature adjustment occur with frequency if you’re simply attempting to navigate via the infotainment system instantly above. Maybe placing contact delicate controls within the good spot for a palm stabilizer was a nasty thought? We didn’t take care of this setup final 12 months, and extra time with the Mk. eight has solely solidified our pondering that this poor design should be changed within the Golf R, GTI, ID.four and any future Volkswagen that finally ends up with it.
Fortunately, driving the Golf R is an absolute delight. The extent of pleasure is very depending on what drive mode you dial in by way of VW’s advanced new drive mode selector. For many roads, merely chucking it into the “Particular” mode configured particularly for Germany’s Nürburgring that may permit you to derive essentially the most enjoyable from the chassis. This places the throttle response, steering and exhaust of their most aggressive settings, however retains the dampers in a softer state of tune. James Might should be perplexed by this, however seems the “Nürburgring” setup is the perfect setup for slicing up America’s poorly maintained labyrinth of roads. Take it one step additional by going via the assorted screens to activate “ESC Sport” (no, there isn’t any easy TCS/ESC button to press), and also you get to tangibly really feel the benefit of VW’s trick rear differential by the use of small allowances of power-driven slip angle.
New for the Mk. eight Golf R, this differential vastly ups the extent of enjoyable you’ll have when exploring what the automotive can do. On prime of the AWD system having the ability to ship as much as 50% of the engine’s torque rearward, the brand new torque-vectoring rear differential with two multi-plate clutches can distribute as much as 100% of stated rear torque to a single wheel. Which means that in a nook, the Golf R can direct extra energy to the wheel on the surface, tightening your line and pushing you thru the nook. In follow, it’s transformative for the all-wheel-drive R. Previous to this new differential, the Golf R has all the time felt like extra of a GTI+ with the rear wheels simply alongside for the trip, offering extra traction when obligatory and mitigating torque steer. Now, the Golf R can really feel like a rear-biased all-wheel-drive automotive at occasions. It even has a Drift mode that simply sends you spinning spherical and spherical by overpowering that exterior rear wheel, and it’s all doable because of the torque-vectoring rear differential.
Dial the Golf R again to Consolation, and it’s a laid again, sedate cruiser. The exhaust quiets down; the steering will get gentle, and the trip goes tender. VW’s newest era of DCC adaptive dampers handle to melt out the trip sufficient to make sure it’s best for day by day driving responsibility. The breadth of adjustment by way of the damper slider is spectacular — swing all of it the way in which stiff, and also you’ll discover it’s seemingly dialed in for the smoothest of racetracks with how harsh the trip will get on the road.
Nonetheless, pretty much as good because the Golf R may drive, the UI fumbles make it troublesome to stay with. Your heated seats are caught within the infotainment system, and ready 15-20 seconds for the display to totally boot-up in winter earlier than having the ability to slam the heated seats on is as infuriating because it sounds. Others on employees have famous their fury with working the radio on different VW merchandise housing this method, and it’s nonetheless a sound grievance right here with a poor menu construction and 0 search or tune buttons to be discovered on the middle stack. And certain, the ambient lighting and a number of screens will be personalized by way of an inventory of 30 totally different colours with innumerable mixtures of these colours, however that’s simply multi-colored lipstick on a pig.
If high-tech and feature-filled is what you’re after, although, the Golf R delivers. VW is selecting to promote the Mk. eight Golf R in a single fully-loaded trim this 12 months, and it ain’t low-cost at $45,085. That’s the value for the handbook, too — if you would like the DSG, add one other $800. In comparison with a similarly-loaded GTI, you’re taking a look at a $6,095 premium for the R. Is the additional energy and AWD value that additional money? We’d argue the newfound driving traits with the rear differential give the R a stronger case than earlier than, however should you’re taking a look at a base GTI that begins at $31,270, keep it up. The R doesn’t supply a $14,000 higher driving expertise. For some perspective with the luxurious realm (as a result of that’s how dear the R is now), the Audi S3 begins at $46,895, making it solely cheap to cross-shop the 2.
My tester is within the fairly Lapiz Blue Metallic paint, and it’s certainly one of solely three choices out there with the opposite two being black and white. We will hope that VW brings again its Spektrum paint shade program to spruce issues up, because the palette is slightly boring in the meanwhile.
The one inside choice is equally disappointing. Our Euro-spec Golf R was fitted with epic blue, black and grey patterned seats with suede bolsters that held us snugly in place. The plain Titan Black seats within the U.S. Golf R are simply boring compared, and there aren’t any choices for various colours or supplies. Nonetheless, that lack of flare and pomp is perhaps precisely what you’re on the lookout for if a Golf R is in your radar. Its bigger rear wing is without doubt one of the solely boy-racer components somebody might scoff at, for the remainder of this utilitarian hatchback is solely fashion-forward enterprise informal. Your potential backseat riders (purchasers you wish to impress?) will even have heated seats and their very own local weather zone.
It’s virtually just like the Golf R is moonlighting as an entry-level luxurious automotive with its value and tech options, however doesn’t end the job by swapping out all the standard Golf inside plastics with elevated supplies. That stated, none of its theoretical competitors goes to be significantly luxurious inside both. It’s additionally not possible to say how the brand new Golf R measures as much as the competitors, for the 2 largest rivals — GR Corolla and the upcoming Civic Sort R — are automobiles we’ve but to drive. If historical past is any indication, although, the Golf R will proceed to be the costly grown-up within the scorching hatch world. Fortunately, that grown-up is just a bit extra enjoyable this time round.